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Vegetarians, 1; dairy farmers, 0 -- hidden camera reveals barnyard ick

January 27, 2010 |  3:18 pm

More cows So what happens when an animal-rights group conducts an undercover investigation into the workings of a dairy farm -- and comes up with nausea-inducing video footage of a worker whacking off a calf's tail and burning off its horns?

Complete and udder outrage, of course.

The video, shot more than a year ago at an upstate New York dairy, was filmed by animal-rights and vegetarian-espousing group Mercy for Animals. ABC News picked up on the story and reported on the “tail-docking” investigation yesterday.

The footage, also posted on YouTube (though be warned, it’s all really graphic) shows workers kicking cattle to move them and dragging calves across the floor by one leg.

The practice of tail-docking – or cutting off a cow’s tail -- has long been a controversial practice in agriculture. Farmers say it helps keep the barns cleaner, and presumably a healthier place for animals, by preventing cattle from spreading manure with their tails. Critics -- and there are quite a few -- say it's animal torture and have pushed to have the practice banned. (California outlawed it last year, except in the case of medical purposes.)

The video has caused an uproar among the dairy industry and its critics, and even reached into New York's state capitol: Linda Rosenthal, a Democratic state assemblywoman, has introduced a bill that would amend existing law and add cows to the list of agricultural animals whose tails must be left alone.

-- P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: Dairy cows feed at a dairy farm (not the subject of the video) near Visalia, Calif.  Credit: Phil Hawkins / Bloomberg News